STRAUS SQUARE, Manhattan Valley

There’s a comely young woman in a diaphanous dress reclining on a pedestal facing north on Broadway and West 106th Street, pensively looking at the ground.  She’s always there! Unfortunately, she’s made of bronze. It’s part of the Ida and Isidor Straus Memorial.

Isidor Straus (1845-1912) was a German immigrant businessman, member of the House of Representatives, and prominent donor and philanthropist. After arriving in the USA in 1854 his family settled in Talbotton, Georgia, where his father Lazarus opened a crockery store and later allowed an entrepreneur named Rowland Hussey Macy to rent space in the basement. By 1896, Isidor and his brother Nathan (who is remembered by Straus Square on the Lower East Side) had gained full control of Macy’s after its founder’s death.

On April 15, 1912, Ida and Isidor Straus were traveling to the States on the steamship Titanic. After it struck the iceberg and the lifeboats were filling up, the Strauses were offered places, but neither would enter a lifeboat until all women and children were evacuated first. Ida gave her fur coat to her housekeeper Ellen Bird and ordered her into the lifeboat, and the Strauses perished when the ship sank.

The city commissioned this memorial to the Strauses in 1914, which consists of a granite fountain, a reclining female figure representing Memory and a marble bench inscribed with the words: “In memory of Ida and Isidor Straus, who were lost at sea in the Titanic disaster April 15, 1912. Lovely and pleasant were they in their lives, and in their death they were not divided. — II Samuel, 1-23.”

The Memory image was sculpted by Augustus Lakeman, while the fountain and bench, known as an exedra, were by Evarts Tracy.

 

The plaque was set in the pavement in 1915 and mentions then-mayor John Purroy Mitchel, the youngest elected mayor of NYC to date. He is remembered by a gilded bust at 5th Avenue and East 91st Street at a Central Park entrance. He perished in 1918 during World War I — while on a training flight, he apparently forgot to fasten his seat belt and fell from his plane.

11/26/14

 

 


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5 Responses to STRAUS SQUARE, Manhattan Valley

  1. maurice teahan says:

    The model was Audrey Munson,who appears elsewhere in NYC,and may have been first nude celebrity.

  2. ron s says:

    Their mausoleum is in Woodlawn and is remarkable. I believe his body was found and buried there but hers was not found, so the Woodlawn site is a memorial to her but not a burial site.

  3. George Cassidy says:

    It’s John Purroy Mitchel. They named Mitchel Field, on Long Island, after him.

  4. Alec says:

    Ironically, I happened to be reading about a man named Elbert Hubbard, who was instrumental in the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 20th century, and he wrote about the Strauses after their death..

    In 1912, the famed passenger liner Titanic was sunk after hitting an iceberg. Hubbard subsequently wrote of the disaster,[8] singling out the story of Ida Straus, who as a woman was supposed to be placed on a lifeboat in precedence to the men, but she refused to board the boat.[a] Hubbard then added his own commentary:

    “Mr. and Mrs. Straus, I envy you that legacy of love and loyalty left to your children and grandchildren. The calm courage that was yours all your long and useful career was your possession in death. You knew how to do three great things—you knew how to live, how to love and how to die. One thing is sure, there are just two respectable ways to die. One is of old age, and the other is by accident. All disease is indecent. Suicide is atrocious. But to pass out as did Mr. and Mrs. Isador Straus is glorious. Few have such a privilege. Happy lovers, both. In life they were never separated and in death they are not divided.”[

    Hubbard proved to be true to his word, as he and his wife were on the Lusitania 3 years later when it was hit and sunk by a German U-boat in WW1. As they story goes, they also passed up a chance to be rescued and instead went inside to a room to die together.

  5. Suzanne says:

    There was also a memorial to them (specifically to the wife) in an entrance to Macy’s on 34th Street. It had a rose on it, I don’t think it is still there. The portrayal of them in the most recent Titanic movie is very accurate; they died together, after stating that they lived together all these years and so they saw no reason to separate now. Isidor and Nathan were well-known for their clean, healthy milk campaigns for immigrant children in NY.

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